Critical Offseason Approaches for San Francisco

Jan 14, 2004 at 12:00 AM

When the 49ers hired Dennis Erickson last offseason, San Francisco fans knew that change was in the air, for better or for worse. After a 7-9 start to Erickson's San Francisco career, they got their answer.

While the 7-9 season can't be solely blamed on Erickson, the 49ers enter the offseason with a lot of question marks and not a lot of answers.

Will the team be able to resign future perennial All-Pro Julian Peterson and corner Ahmed Plummer? Will emerging state Kevan Barlow return after his first 1,000 yard rushing season? Where will Owens end up and will we be compensated? After such a great start against Chicago in the opening game, what went wrong?

The team's first and most obvious priority is re-signing Julian Peterson. Teams must game plan around Peterson because he creates havoc on every play. The fourth year pro bowler from Michigan State led the team with 7 sacks and finished second on the team in tackles with 95. Losing Peterson would be catastrophic to a young and improving defense that ranked 13th in the NFL this year.

At 6'3, 226 pounds, Owens creates matchup problems and is one of the greatest offensive threats in the game. However, Owens drops passes too frequently and causes too much of a public relations headache to warrant the 20 million dollar signing bonus that he wants. The best case scenario for the 49ers would be to franchise Owens and get two first round draft picks for him. The team already has emerging star Brandon Lloyd waiting in the wings, and could find another solid receiver with one of the first round picks they receive from Owens. San Francisco is also likely to lose starting receiver Tai Streets, who wants to play closer to the East Coast and already tried to leave last offseason.

Plummer and Barlow are interesting situations. The team has stated that Peterson is their first priority, making Plummer and Barlow second on the priority list. Will the team have enough money to re-sign Peterson, Plummer and Barlow? That remains to be seen. Plummer isn't a superstar, but has emerged as a solid corner and Barlow is the best running back on the roster. If the offense wishes to have a competitive running game, Barlow needs to be re-signed. As a restricted free agent, Barlow is likely to return to the team next season. The 49ers would like to have Plummer back in the fold for next season, but the team shouldn't break the bank on him. With so many other good corners available through free agency and in the draft, the team should be able to afford Plummer if he wants to return.

The choices the 49ers make regarding their free agents over the next few months will dictate who they sign and how they draft. With the loss of Owens and Streets imminent, the 49ers will need to either sign a starting receiver or draft a one during the top three rounds of the draft. The potential free agents aren't too enticing at receiver, with Darrell Jackson (Sea), Marcus Robinson (Balt.) and Kevin Dyson (Tenn.) the available top pass catchers. A more likely scenario would be drafting a potential star. The Larry Fitzgerald's will be long gone before the 49ers draft at the #16 slot, but a player like Rashaun Woods from Oklahoma State and Reggie Williams from Washington are a possibility.

The team also had a lot of meltdowns along the offensive line during the year. A good crop of free agents will be available on the offensive line. Orlando Pace (Stl.), Walter Jones (Sea.) and John Tait (K.C.) will all be available at tackle, but all will be out of the 49ers' price range. Most of the problems can be attributed to injuries, but the line isn't getting any younger and a good guard or tackle could be found in the third or fourth round. Until last season, the 49ers hadn't drafted an offensive tackle in the first round since Harris Barton in 1987, so it is unlikely they will select one during the first two rounds.

Plummer's uncertain status makes picking up a defensive back a priority. A native of Ohio, Plummer has already indicated he would love to play in Cincinnati. San Francisco ranked 26th in the league in pass defense and will need to upgrade their defensive backfield if they want to compete with the division's high powered offenses in St. Louis and Seattle. The free agent cornerback crop is one of the best in recent memory. However, the Champ Bailey's and Troy Vincent's will be way out of the 49er's price range. The team will have to draft a corner and if the 49ers get a first round draft pick from a team signing Owens, they could use one of the picks on a defensive back. DeAngleo Hall from Virginia Tech possesses the speed and vertical jump to be a shut down corner in the NFL.

Starting defensive end John Engelberger is also a free agent. The team is already thin on the defensive line, and will need to draft a defensive lineman somewhere in the draft. Warren Sapp will be on the market, but with so many young defensive linemen available in the draft, it would be smarter to draft a defensive lineman than sign one. Also, defensive team leader Bryant Young isn't getting any younger and the team will have to draft a defensive lineman sometime in the next few seasons, so this may be the year.

With key free agent losses looming, the most pressing need right now for the 49ers is a wide receiver and cornerback. But things will change as the offseason progresses and the team begins to see who they will lose and who they will add. This offseason will be critical for the 49ers if they want to restore their once proud tradition.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • No Comments

Facebook Comments

More San Francisco 49ers News

49ers RB Jeff Wilson shrugs off 10-touchdown season, looks ahead to offseason of work

By Kirk Larrabee
Jan 3, 2021

Even if he doesn't seem overly impressed with what he accomplished in his third NFL season, Jeff Wilson certainly made his case throughout the year that he belongs as one of the top two running backs for the San Francisco 49ers in the foreseeable future. Wilson capped his season with a touchdown run and a touchdown catch in the 49ers' 26-23 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday, giving him a total of ten on the season (seven rushing, three receiving). Those are impressive numbers, but that accomplishment was overshadowed in his mind by what the team wasn't able to do in 2020. "That's not a big a deal. I guess it's nice, but we didn't win," Wilson said after the loss to the Seahawks. "We didn't have a winning season because of it, so that's pretty much

Read the Full Article

Jimmy Garoppolo says ankle is 'doing good,' 49ers QB ready to attack the offseason

By David Bonilla
Jan 4, 2021

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke with reporters for the first time since October. Of course, the first question presented to him surrounded his health. Garoppolo had been sidelined with a high-ankle sprain since Week 8. "The ankle's doing good," Garoppolo said. "We're in a good spot right now. It's progressed just the way I want it to, really. It's not at 100 percent, but it's really just about getting reps at this point, getting endurance back to it, the durability and everything. I think once we do that, it'll be in a good spot, so I'm pretty happy where I'm at." Garoppolo knows he needs to find a way to stay on the football field for his teammates. San Francisco owns a record of 22-8 with Garoppolo under center. However, the quarterback

Read the Full Article

Jimmy Garoppolo talks ankle, offseason plan, 49ers future

By Site Staff
Jan 4, 2021

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke with reporters on Monday, the day after the team's season-ending 26-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Here is everything he had to say. Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff. Can you just give us an update on where everything is with the ankle right now, if there's going to be any additional procedures and when you can kind of get back to doing everything full speed again? "Yeah, the ankle's doing good. We're in a good spot right now. It's progressed just the way I wanted it to, really. It's not at a hundred percent, but it's really just about getting reps at this point. Getting endurance back to it, the durability and everything. I think once

Read the Full Article


More Featured Stories

More by Matt Faust

All Articles by Matt Faust

More Articles

All Articles
Share 49erswebzone